Monday, April 2, 2012

The Supremes

The Law is whatever WE say it is, b*#@$!
America (well, more of it than usual anyway) actually paid attention to something last week that Americans never pay attention to: the Supreme Court.  As you might have heard, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for "Obamacare" last week and, no matter which side you come down on, only one thing is certain: in June of this year, the Court will decide once and for all whether it was really worth a President depleting his political capital to give health care to 40 million Americans who didn't have it.  And for the first time, our general public -- which seems to pride itself on being politically illiterate -- started to put two and two together as to just how important the Supreme Court is.

Every four years we scream, we shout and we damn near kill each other over the two guys running for the presidency.  For most of us, we think that's the end of the road.  We've been told since grade school that the President is the head honcho. The grand puba.  The leader of the free world.  And for the most part, he (or someday she) is. After all, according to the job description, he is the "commander-in-chief."  But here's the thing about Presidents: they come and go every 4 years.  8 if they're lucky.  The Supreme Court Justices they appoint, on the other hand, remain in power for decades.  Literally.

Nobody can know for sure which way the Supreme Court (read: Justice Kennedy) will vote on Obamacare this June, but if the lawyers' courtroom performances are any indication then this law is as dead as fried chicken.  Millions of Americans (including children) who have been denied health coverage in the past due to preexisting conditions could potentially be thrown off of the health care rolls that they currently enjoy.  And if that happens, it won't be because Congress decided to change the law.  Nor will it be because the President failed to execute the law.  It will be because in 2004, a majority of Americans, for whatever reason, thought it would be a good idea to give George W. Bush a second term in the White House.

What does Health Care in 2012 have to do with Bush's re-election 8 years ago, you ask?  Simple.  Upon re-election, Bush appointed conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high Court which tipped the ideological scales of the Court from a 5-4 liberal advantage to a 5-4 conservative advantage where it remains to this day.  As a direct result, nearly every major issue that has come before this Court has been decided straight down ideological lines in favor of conservatives 5-4.

What many people do not realize is that the Supreme Court has the Constitutional power to take a piece of legislation written by Congress and signed by the President and toss it straight into the trash can as if it never existed.  And once the Supreme Court has ruled on an issue, the only way to change their decision is (A) if the Court decides to overrule themselves on some future case (good luck with that) or (B) if America passes a Constitutional Amendment which overrides the Court's decision.  Oh and, by the way, in the 200+ years that America has existed, the country has only been able to pass twenty-seven (27) Amendments to the Constitution.  And in this politically divided climate that we have today, good luck with that happening ever again.

Which brings us to the 2012 election.  Should Romney emerge as the Republican candidate to take on Obama this fall, America would do well to remember that this election -- just like all elections -- is much bigger than the two men on the ballot.  With Justices Thomas, Breyer, Scalia, and Ginsburg approaching 64, 74, 77, and 80, respectively, whoever is in office over these next 4 years could cause ripple effects that last a lifetime.
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